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Review: VW Beetle Turbo S

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SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide

By Annabelle Frankl

Having driven the Beetle a couple of years ago, I was intrigued to get into the Turbo S. I really enjoyed the original, but seem to recall that one had to really punch the accelerator to get any reaction. Evidently, in question of style, they are more or less the same, but what is the difference under that hood?

A whole lot of fun, that’s for sure! The 1.8 liter, 180 hp, 5V turbo charged engine makes for a great driving experience. Producing an extra 30 hp and 12 lbs-ft of torque (173 in total) than the 1.8T model, the Turbo S really packs a punch. Great acceleration and you’re all-too-quickly sliding into 6th gear, which is wonderfully torque-y and really allows one to accelerate further, whenever needed, at speed – very responsive about 3,000 rpm. With a 0-60 of a little under 7 seconds, you’ll enjoy, time after time, the satisfying ‘whoosh’ of the turbo engaging. There’s a small lag before it does come in, but nothing horrendous. It won’t take long, but you’ll need a little extra care when shifting from 6th to 5th, since the spring-loading tries to send you straight into 3rd every time. Also, the clunk of the rear spoiler takes some getting used to. It rises at speeds above 45mph, and drops again when speeds sink below 15mph. Slightly annoying when stop-starting in freeway traffic, but your Beetle can come equipped with an on-off button for such situations.

Handling is responsive, with great road grip care of 17” alloys and all season tires. VW utilizes the Electronic Stabilization Program to keep you on track and limit wheel spin. You’ll get a good, firm ride care of independent strut front suspension and track correcting independent torsion beam at rear. Safety features include ABS, front and side impact airbags, anti-intrusion side impact beams and day running lights.

Inside, the S is luxuriously appointed, with 2-tone black/gray leather, fully-reclining seats, 8-speaker Monsoon sound system, with optional 6-CD changer in the trunk (couldn’t they put it under the passenger seat?…far more convenient), power windows with pinch protection and auto down, power sunroof and mirrors (heated), heated front seats, brushed alloy finishes and tasteful dash layout, complete with requisite flower holder!

Loads of room for front passengers, rear passengers might find the curving roof a little short, but there’s good legroom. Parking takes some getting used to since one can’t see the bumper but, invariably, the car always takes up less space than you thought it would!

Although the ‘new’ Beetle is now 4 years old, and may have lost some of its original, novelty design value, the S brings a welcome boost to this unique compact. Whilst the boy-racers may prefer to stick with their lowered, spec’d-out Hondas, the Turbo S offers more class, more style, yet will out-gun many an unsuspecting petrol-head at the lights. Price as Tested: $24,400 CD: $250 Destination: $550

City/Hwy: 23/30

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